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Healthy Note: Don't give up your eyes for an iPhone

Close-up of person texting on smartphone

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Don’t give up your
eyes for an iPhone

The biggest knock on smartphones is that all the apps, emails, viral videos and text messages drive us to distraction, if not off the road.

But spending half the day staring into a 4-inch screen may also wreck one’s eyesight, new research suggests — and the devices may not be to blame so much as how we hold them.

David Allamby, an eye surgeon and the founder of Focus Clinics in London, recently coined the term “screen sightedness” and pointed out that according to his research, there has been a 35 percent increase in the number of people with advancing myopia since smartphones launched in 1997.

Nearsightedness, or myopia, is a condition caused by a combination of hereditary factors and environment, says Shlomit Schaal, an eye surgeon and assistant professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Louisville. It affects more than 30 percent of the population of the U.S. Using a smartphone strains the eyes in much the same way reading a book or staring at a computer monitor does, with one exception - the distance between the eye and the object. When a phone or other device is held close to one’s face, it forces the eye to work harder than usual to focus on text, says Mark Rosenfield, an optometrist who published research on the topic in The Journal of the American Academy of Optometry. The discomfort can eventually result in fatigue.

People tend to hold smartphones considerably closer to their faces than they would a book or newspaper, even as close as 7 or 8 inches, Rosenfield says. Holding the phone at least 16 inches away from the face during use can be beneficial, he says.


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